Excerpt from Alvin Boyd Kuhn’s book, “Shadow of the Third Century: A Revaluation of Christianity.” (Published 1949 by Alvin Boyd Kuhn, republished by Kessinger Publishing’s Rare Mystical Reprints.)
Note: Two of my Presbyterian colleagues suggested last summer that I read this book in response to my comments on reading Tim Freke’s and Peter Gandy’s book, “The Jesus Mysteries.” I found the book, self-published in 1949, nearly 600 pages long, and have been reading it slowly through this winter. What an amazing book! Alvin Kuhn, now deceased, lived in Toronto. Here Dr. Kuhn is discussing what loss came to Christianity after the church literalized the stories in the 4th Century, and destroyed so many writings which were contrary to the church’s literalistic views.)
Chapter IX, “From Religion to Philosophy”, pp. 194-195.
The escape into religion is a hollow delusion. It is an escape from one cell of the prison of ignorance to another, with less possibility there of the mustering of real strength to get out. How can one escape into a condition which is itself a house of bondage? The etymology of the word “religion” is very suggestive as to this. It is from the Latin re, “back,” and the stem lig, “to bind or tie.” It is therefore a binding the mind back to either the basic source in reality of life, from which in its pilgrimage through the elements that has traveled far from base, or in a less noble sense, a binding back to the trammels of earth and sense from which man is expected in the course of his evolution to free himself. If it is taken in the first sense of a binding fragment of consciousness to the divine or cosmic whole, then in its alternate reference it becomes not a binding but a freeing force, for only in perfect union with God is there freedom. The perfected alone enjoy “the liberty of the sons of God.” All life short of that is slavery, as Paul says, to “the elements of the world.”
There is no escape into religion and no escape out of it until one graduates into the upper grade of philosophy. If the world of intelligence can catch the idea that religion constitutes a grade in the cosmic curriculum, and one that is to be as quickly as possible pass through by the scholar, the stern face of human history can relax into a softer mien (expression). Like a grade in the public schools, religion should be considered in its true function as a way station that exist not to hold its pupils, but to pass them onto a grade above it. The fatal blunder, to which there has apparently been no awakening in the circles of religion itself, has been thinking that the human soul can be perpetually lodged in the religious house by the wayside. As Hopper says in his The Crisis of Faith, man is a viator (traveler); he is on his way; he is bound on a long journey. But religion would catch and hold him to its “binding back.” Religion is reluctant to bid him God-speed on the longer path. Religion would shield him, caress him, mother him overlong, to the detriment and eventual atrophy of his own powers. It is the fond mother that cannot tolerate the thought of seeing her child step out from her nurturing home and care, to wage his battles out in the purlieus of an evil world. She is fearful of letting the believing mind of the youthful soul becomes subject to the critical assaults of rationalization on trusting faith, such as it will encounter when it delves into philosophy.
The outcome of the discussion on this point should be the firm hypostatization of a completely new view as regards religion. It should be categorically realized that as long as religion serves merely as a harbor of reliance and dependence on God viewed as a Power exterior to man’s own spirit, it is in truth a form of escape from that necessary meeting with reality as it presses closer and closer upon the living soul, and as such it is a retreat, a childhood protection, a hugging the shelter of home in reluctance to brave the adventure in which the soul must overcome the world to win its crown. It is the coddling of the soul not yet strong enough to make its own fight. And insofar as it ties the initiative, the adventurous spirit of man down into the grooves of complacent security and mediocrity, it is indeed a binding back of the wings of the soul as Plato so graphically dramatizes it.